The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

After surviving attacks in Yemen and Turkey, he died crossing a street

Timothy Fingarson, a former Foreign Service officer, was fatally struck by a driver on Virginia Avenue NW

Timothy Fingarson, a former Foreign Service officer who was killed while crossing a street in D.C. on Aug. 3. (Family photo)
3 min

Timothy Fingarson survived riots in Yemen and dodged explosive devices in Iraq. He narrowly escaped the U.S. Embassy in Turkey before a suicide bomber attacked the building nine years ago, his wife said.

Then, on a Wednesday in August, the former Foreign Service officer was struck by a driver and killed while crossing a street in Northwest D.C., police said. He was 66 years old.

“He comes home after all this time,” said his wife, 68-year-old Nisreen Baker-Fingarson, “and then someone hits him and kills him.”

Fingarson was crossing Virginia Avenue NW just after 4:10 p.m. on Aug. 3, when a driver who had just exited the 23rd Street underpass struck and killed him, police said. According to police, Fingarson was outside of a crosswalk. The driver remained on the scene.

Driven by curiosity about the world’s cultures and languages, Fingarson left his home state of North Dakota after college to spend the early part of his life in the U.S. Army. He enjoyed traveling to states such as California for training, his wife said, and spent much of his 20 years of service deployed in Germany.

Just before the United States destroyed Iraq’s air defenses in Operation Desert Storm, Fingarson fell in love with a language teacher he met through friends at one of his training retreats. It was a slower burn, however, for Baker-Fingarson. At first, she was intrigued by his intellect. Then, she started to notice how kind he was. “A gentleman,” she said. “And quiet.”

The two married in 1992, each with one son from a previous marriage. Ten years later, Fingarson joined the State Department as a Foreign Service officer, and the couple moved to Yemen shortly thereafter.

Their life abroad was full of dinner parties with friends and hours sitting together by the nearest body of water, Baker-Fingarson said. They tried not to talk about work, and instead focused on the local food and where to travel next. Over decades at the State Department, the Fingarsons lived in Yemen, Qatar, Iraq, Austria, Turkey, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, Baker-Fingarson said.

Fingarson picked up new favorite foods in each country. Grilled meats in Turkey. Sausages in Austria.

“He had a really full life,” Baker-Fingarson said. “He enjoyed every bit of it.”

Baker-Fingarson admired her husband’s drive, but it also frustrated her as he entered his 60s and still wanted to work. After returning four years ago from living abroad, Fingarson continued working for the State Department. He was supposed to retire at 65.

“Stay home,” she would say to him, imagining days reading together at their house in West Virginia, or sleeping past 6 a.m. “Enjoy it.”

“I have a few more years in me,” he would reply.

He briefly retired, but then went back to the State Department on an independent contract, which meant getting up each morning before 5 a.m. to take the commuter bus into D.C., his wife said.

But as they aged together, the couple did have more and more moments of quiet family time. On Aug. 2, Baker-Fingarson was picking up her grandkids — ages 7 and 5½ — to bring them to West Virginia for a month. Fingarson told her over the phone that night about his plans to take them fishing, his wife said.

The next afternoon, she got a call. Her husband had been hit by someone in a car.

Baker-Fingarson said he must have been on his way to the commuter bus, on his way home to her.

“If he wouldn’t have gone back to work, he would still be alive now,” she said. “It’s not easy to digest.”